There were no surprises at the council meeting to set the coming year’s local property tax, which took place last Thursday.
The majority of councillors voted for local property tax rates to be kept at the same level as previous years, with a 15 percent discount on the standard rate. (Forty voted for the cut, and eight against.)
Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan had recommended that councillors apply the full rate. That would have brought in an extra €11.82 million for council services throughout the year, it was estimated.
But Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors did not heed Keegan’s recommendation. “It’s a very regressive way to go about introducing and trying to fund local government,” said People Before Profit’s John Lyons.
Others councillors disagreed with this bloc. Reducing the tax would mean less money to spend elsewhere, said Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe. “Over the last two years I have looked at parks that we can’t afford to open because we can’t keep them in a maintainable conditions,” he said.
“I see street signs that you can’t read because we don’t have money to replace [them]. I see potholes that we can’t fill because we don’t have the taxation to deliver,” Cuffe said. He and his party colleagues voted against the reduced rate.
Labour councillors suggested a 7.5 percent reduction this year – as they had last year – and voted against the 15 percent reduction. Social Democrat Gary Gannon also voted against it. Worker’s Party Councillor Éilis Ryan abstained.
At Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, councillors agreed a motion that called for compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to be used “where an owner ignores a request to clear up a site in a reasonable timeframe or where the ownership of a property is unidentifiable”.
Executive Manager Paul Clegg basically said council management is on it already, looking at properties on the city’s derelict-sites register that they could swoop in and take over.
But it would be a slow swoop, mind. It takes at least 18 months to do a CPO and the council could be challenged in the courts, which would drag it out longer. Where possible, it’s better to try to agree a sale with the property owner, said Clegg.
Once the notion of more aggressive compulsory purchase orders had been raised, a couple of councillors raised specific properties they’d like to see tackled.
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said he wondered if there could be another route to using properties on the derelict-sites register, one less cumbersome than a compulsory purchase order.
Most councillors were supportive of exploring the suggestion of floatels – ships with apartments or rooms – to add accommodation to the city.
Labour Councillor Mary Freehill, who put forward the idea at the planning committee’s meeting on Tuesday, said she wasn’t putting it forward to house the homeless – despite what has been reported. As she sees it, floatels would be better for students or young people.
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said he thought it was worth supporting the motion, and that it should go further. “I think the motion should extend itself to the canals,” he said.
As did Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey. He said he would welcome it not only as a source of accommodation, but as a way to animate the city’s waterways. “I think it would be a great place to live for a few months, if I was in college.”
There were a couple of reservations voiced.
Eilis Ryan of the Workers Party said she didn’t think it was an appropriate time for the idea, which would essentially increase the amount of land available for housing. But “there’s not a problem with land zoned for housing, the problem is around resources to do that,” she said.
There was also the question of how polluting cruise-ship-style ships are, said Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello. Plus, the average cabin is small. Would these again be “shoebox apartments” by another name? “I’d like to see how some of those issues are going to be addressed,” he said.
Dublin City Council Executive Manager Paul Clegg told councillors that officials had been pitched by a group wanting to provide a ship that used to be oil-worker accommodation in the Shetland Islands.
The four-storey ship they saw wasn’t that visually attractive, said Clegg. He also asked whether it would be suitable to have these residential facilities in a working port, whether there are the berths for this, and whether it would lead to that many units. “We’d question it,” he said.
Despite a sceptical reception from city officials, many councillors didn’t want the idea to be knocked on the head yet. Officials said they will prepare a report on the idea.